Emily LakdawallaOct 13, 2008

Following the Division of Planetary Sciences Meeting from home

This week (actually from Saturday through Wednesday) is the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, which is typically referred to as just "DPS." I'm not overly fond of acronyms but here's one case where the use of the acronym saves me an awful lot of work. This is one of my favorite meetings of the year -- this and the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) vie for first place -- so I was really bummed to be told that the Society couldn't afford to send me this year. The two meetings cover slightly different subsets of planetary science. LPSC is essentially a meeting for geologists, so there's a heavy emphasis on the terrestrial planets and the Moon, with the outer planets only showing up when their moons are being discussed, and asteroids showing up mostly in the context of meteorites. DPS is a meeting that's more for astronomers, so there's much more on outer planets, on atmospheres, and on the smaller bodies of the solar system like asteroids and comets.

Fortunately, the conference is being hosted this year at Cornell University, which (a) is a place where people know a thing or two about computers and stuff and (b) connects to the Internet with a pretty fat pipe. So they were apparently all set up to do live Web streaming, which is a first for a DPS meeting, and is awesome. But over the weekend I discovered that it's even better than that. The same links that take you to live Web streams while sessions are actually going on, take you to archived recordings of the sessions once the sessions are over. You can even flip back and forth through presenters' slides, which I have never been able to do with any other live-streamed conference. And there's a function that allows you to speed or slow the playback. It's outstanding. So, when I tuned in for John Spencer's talk during Saturday's Enceladus session while simultaneously attempting to cook my daughter's lunch, while said daughter was demanding I replace the batteries in one of her toys, and then my sister-in-law called to discuss the menu for Thanksgiving dinner, let's just say I wasn't able to get a very good sense of what John was talking about; but now I can go back and watch the session at my leisure, and take screen caps of all the slides while I do it. (Cue evil laughter.)

For those of you who are planning to follow talks at home, I'd suggest using Internet Explorer; it's performing much better for me with the Web streaming software than Firefox. Firefox won't let me queue the session (that is, it won't let me move the slider forward or backward to a different spot in a session), and I'm having trouble getting it to display slides properly. Explorer is working fine. I haven't tried any other browsers.Here's the science program if you want to see when all the talks are (or were) scheduled. I used the online program planner to figure out which talks I wanted to "attend," so will spend this week wandering through as many of them as I can. But since the talks are available for anyone with a high-speed Internet connection, I heartily encourage you to go check them out. As I watch, if I notice any talks that are particularly accessible to a "lay" audience, I'll point them out. Also, I should mention that Ryan Anderson of Martian Chronicles is a Cornell student and is actually attending many of these talks in person, and is posting daily synopses of his notes.

OK, on to the sessions!

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